Julie United States 4 Comments

Sedona, with its short but thrilling hiking trails, scenic drives, shops, and restaurants, makes an epic road trip destination in Arizona. If you have one day in Sedona, we have several great suggestions on how to spend your time.

“One day” can mean several different things. Whether you will just be passing through, or if you will have a full day from start to finish, we have plenty of great ideas on how to plan the perfect visit.

We have visited Sedona multiple times in recent years. Our first two visits were very quick and we fell into the category of “just passing through.” We know what it is like to zip through Sedona…you want to see the best of Sedona in the shortest amount of time possible. 

More recently, we spent 6 days in Sedona. We learned a lot and we share that information with you in this guide. If you are like us, this one day visit will simply be an introduction to the wonders of Sedona and you will be back again someday.

 

Overview of Sedona

Sedona is located in Arizona, roughly halfway between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon.

The town of Sedona is split into two sections: West Sedona and Uptown Sedona. Highway 89A travels east-west through West Sedona. This is where you will find numerous hotels and restaurants and have access to some of Sedona’s best hikes. Uptown Sedona is located north of the intersection of Highway 89A and Highway 179 (the “Y”). This is where you will find some of Sedona’s best restaurants and shopping.

Just outside of Sedona are two more notable spots that you will also pass through on your road trip through Arizona.

The Village of Oak Creek is located to the south of Sedona. This small town is home to some of Sedona’s highest rated restaurants. Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock are located near the Village of Oak Creek.

Oak Creek Canyon sits north of Sedona. Highway 89A twists and turns through this forested canyon and it looks and feels a lot different than Sedona.

Best Things to Do in Sedona

With one day in Sedona, here are the best things to see and do:

  • See Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock
  • Go on a scenic drive: the Red Rock Scenic Byway and Oak Creek Canyon Road are great options if you have one day in Sedona
  • Go hiking
  • Go shopping at Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village
  • Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross
  • Broken Arrow 4WD Road
  • Watch the sunset

This is just a short list of things to do in Sedona. For the full list, read our article 15 Best Things to Do in Sedona.

Bell Rock Climb

The view of Courthouse Butte from Bell Rock

Sedona Itinerary Suggestions

Here are several itinerary suggestions for one day in Sedona, whether you are just passing through or have an entire day. I also give suggestions based on traveling style. Let’s face it, one “perfect” day in Sedona is going to look much different for a hiker than a family with young kids.

With Just a Few Hours

The first time we visited Sedona was on a day trip. Tim and I flew to Phoenix and stopped in Sedona on the way to the Grand Canyon. We drove the Red Rock Scenic Byway and had lunch in Uptown Sedona. It was a very quick visit and hardly enough time to really do anything but I remember being amazed at the red rock landscapes.

Our first visit added up to a whopping two hours. I recommend spending more time than this, ideally half of a day, so you can hike a short trail, go shopping, or see more of the red rock scenery.

If you only have a few hours in Sedona, here is how I recommend you plan your time. This is written as if you are driving through Arizona from south to north. Reverse the order if you will be traveling in the opposite direction.

  • Drive the Red Rock Scenic Byway: this will take you past Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock
  • Have lunch in Sedona. Our favorite lunch spots are Mole Sedona, The Hudson, and Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen
  • Drive to Airport Mesa viewpoint for one of the best views of Sedona
  • Drive Oak Creek Canyon Road

This should take 2 to 3 hours, including the time on the scenic drives.

Airport Mesa

The view of Sedona from the Airport Mesa viewpoint

With a Half Day in Sedona

With just a little more time, you can add on a short hike or go boutique shopping.

For Hikers

  • Drive the Red Rock Scenic Byway. Hike the Bell Rock Courthouse Butte Loop and add on the hike up Bell Rock for spectacular views.
  • Have lunch in Sedona. Our favorite lunch spots are Mole Sedona, The Hudson, and Picazzo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen
  • Drive to Airport Mesa viewpoint for another great view of Sedona
  • Drive Oak Creek Canyon Road

For Non-Hikers

  • Drive the Red Rock Scenic Byway
  • Go shopping in Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village.
  • Have lunch at El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano (in Tlaquepaque Village) or walk or drive to The Hudson
  • Drive to Airport Mesa viewpoint for one of the best views of Sedona
  • Drive Oak Creek Canyon Road

Tlaquepaque

Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village

One Day in Sedona

Here are several suggestions on how to spend your time if you have one full day in Sedona. Plan to spend one night in Sedona, but two nights are ideal, since that gives you the entire day, from start to finish.

One Day in Sedona: For Hikers

If you are an avid hiker, you are going to have a very tough time picking out which hike(s) you want to do. With one day in Sedona, you can pick two to three trails since many of the hikes in Sedona are short and not too strenuous.

Morning: Go Hiking

Sedona has become an extremely popular hiking destination and the parking lots at the trailheads can completely fill by 8 am (and some of the most popular trailheads will be completely filled between 6 am and 7 am, at least during peak season). Getting an early start is key to having a great experience.

Here are several hikes that I recommend:

Cathedral Rock. This hike is short and sweet, and with some rock scrambling and jaw-dropping views, it’s tons of fun from start to finish. It’s just 1.2 miles round-trip. The trickiest part is getting a parking space. The parking lot can fill by 6:30 am so you must get here early.

Cathedral Rock Hike

The Cathedral Rock hike only takes an hour or two. You can drive down the Red Rock Scenic Byway and add on the Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Loop Trail. The hike up Bell Rock will seem very easy after Cathedral Rock.

Soldier Pass. This fun hike takes you past Devils Kitchen and the Seven Sacred Pools. As a bonus, hike to the Soldier Pass cave. This hike is 4.5 miles out-and-back.

Soldier Pass

Soldier Pass Cave

Boynton Canyon. This hike takes you through a beautiful canyon in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness. Add on the short detour to the Subway Cave, one of the most beautiful hidden caves in Sedona. This hike is 6.3 miles long (7 miles total if you add on the Subway Cave).

Bear Mountain. This hike is only 5 miles round-trip but with a massive elevation gain, it is the hardest on this list. Your reward…panoramic views from one of the highest points in Sedona. 

For a longer list of hiking trails in Sedona, read our Sedona Hiking Guide.

Midday

Have lunch in Sedona.

In the early afternoon, take a Pink Jeep Tour of Broken Arrow, Sedona’s most thrilling 4WD road.

Late Afternoon: Devil’s Bridge

Devil’s Bridge is the most popular hike in Sedona. From 8 am to 4 pm the trail is extremely busy. In April 2021 we heard reports that people were waiting an hour in line to take their turn on the bridge. By 3:30 pm, most people are heading back to their cars, making this the perfect time to hike Devils Bridge. Not only will crowds be low, but the lighting is great for photography.

Devils Bridge one day in Sedona

Evening

Have dinner in Sedona. Our favorite dinner spots are Mariposa, Vino di Sedona, and Saltrock Southwest Kitchen. Elote Café gets rave reviews as well.

One Day in Sedona: For Non-Hikers

Morning

Start your day with brunch. The Coffee Pot Restaurant, Wildflower, and Miley’s Café (in the Village of Oak Creek) all get rave reviews.

Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village opens at 10 am. Opening time is a wonderful time to be here. Not only will it be easy to get a parking space but the shops won’t be too crowded. It’s easy to spend several hours here…not only can you go shopping but you can also go wine tasting or have lunch.

Have lunch in one of the restaurants in Tlaquepaque Village. El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano had a very long line during our visit and the food smelled amazing. The Oak Creek Brewery and René at Tlaquepaque get good reviews. You can also walk or drive to The Hudson, one of our favorite restaurants in Sedona. Consider making a reservation for their outdoor terrace.

Afternoon

Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a small Roman Catholic Church that is perched on the red rocks. Drive the Red Rock Scenic Byway. Then drive into West Sedona.

Sedona Chapel one day in Sedona

For something off-the-beaten-path, visit the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park. Even though it is tucked away against the red rocks of Sedona, you will feel like you are transported to Asia as you walk around the stupas and see the prayer flags flapping in the breeze. This quiet, serene place is a wonderful break from the hustle and bustle of Sedona.

Amitabha

Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park

Drive Red Rock Loop Road to the Crescent Moon Picnic Site. This is the best place to get the iconic view of Cathedral Rock. It’s a flat, shady walk out to Oak Creek. On a hot day, this is a very nice place to visit, with its forests and cool creek.

It costs $11 to enter the picnic site. There are several short trails you can walk to get out to the creek.

Crescent Moon Picnic Site

Crescent Moon Picnic Site

Evening

Have dinner in Sedona. If your timing works out, watch the sunset from the Airport Mesa viewpoint.

One Day in Sedona: For Families

Sedona is a great place to bring your kids. With short, easy hikes, swimming spots, and 4WD roads to explore, your kids will have a blast here.

Morning: Go Hiking

In the morning, take your kids for a hike. Here are several trails that most kids will be able to handle.

Cathedral Rock. Just 1.2 miles long, this is a somewhat strenuous hike but adventurous kids will love the rock scrambling sections. Parents will love the views from the top of the rock.

Bell Rock & Courthouse Butte Loop. This 4 mile trail is easy and suitable for all ages and ability levels. For even better views, hike up onto Bell Rock.

Devils Bridge. This is a short, easy hike that many kids can do. Devils Bridge is fairly wide so older kids can walk out onto the bridge. Since this is a popular hike, start as early as possible.

Bell Rock one day in Sedona

Bell Rock

Midday & Early Afternoon

Here are two options on how to spend the middle part of the day in Sedona.

Option #1: Slide Rock State Park

After your hike, put together a picnic lunch in Sedona. Then drive to Slide Rock State Park.

Slide Rock State Park one day in Sedona

This swimming spot is a great place to visit when the weather is warm. Kids, and kids at heart, will love sliding down the waterfalls into the shallow pools of water. One slide is 80 feet long! There also a few places to go cliff jumping and several short trails to hike.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: During the warmer months and on weekends, the parking lot will fill by mid to late-morning, so I recommend driving here right after your hike. If you hike Cathedral Rock, which is a very quick hike, you should be able to get here by mid-morning. I have read reports where people had to wait over 45 minutes in order to get a parking space, so get here as soon as you can.

Park hours vary according to the time of year. In the summer, Slide Rock State Park is open from 8 am to 7 pm, last entry one hour prior to closing. The entrance fee ranges from $20 to $30, depending on season and day of the week. Get the full details on price and hours of operation here.

Option #2: Lunch + Jeep Tour

After your hike, have lunch or brunch. If you hiked Cathedral Rock or Bell Rock, it’s a short drive to the Village of Oak Creek. The Red Rock Café and Miley’s Café get great reviews for their brunch. Butterfly Burger is open for lunch.

In the afternoon, take a Pink Jeep Tour, of which there are many different options. Broken Arrow is Sedona’s most thrilling drive and this is the one that we recommend.

Broken Arrow one day in Sedona

Broken Arrow Trail

Late Afternoon and Evening

Have dinner in Sedona. If your kids are still full of energy, drive up onto Airport Mesa and hike up onto the rocks on the Summit Trail for panoramic views. The view will be similar to the Airport Mesa Viewpoint (which is farther up the road) but kids will love scrambling on the rocks here. This is also the location of the Airport Mesa Vortex. The header photo for this article was taken on the Summit Trail.

Tours of Sedona

Here are a few highly rated tours, from Jeep Tours to ATV rides, that can be added on to your visit to Sedona.

 

Best Time to Visit Sedona

The best time to visit Sedona is during the spring and fall months, when the weather is warm. Daily temperatures range from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This is also the busiest time to visit Sedona, so expect big crowds, higher hotel prices, and difficulty finding a parking space at the trailheads. Make your dinner reservations several weeks in advance for places like Mariposa and Elote Café.

In the summer, temperatures can be sweltering. Limit your hikes for the early morning and at the end of the day. Midday, visit Slide Rock State Park, Oak Creek Canyon, or stay at a hotel that has a pool. August is the wettest month to visit Sedona since this is “monsoon season,” when rain falls during short, intense thunderstorms.

In the winter, temperatures are chilly. The average daily high is in the mid-50’s (Fahrenheit) getting down to the 30’s at night. Snow is unusual but Sedona did get some snow in 2021.

Cathedral Rock one day in Sedona

Cathedral Rock

How to Get to Sedona

Sedona is located halfway between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. Most people will visit Sedona on a road trip through Arizona, driving between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Page, or Monument Valley.

The closest major airport is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. There is a smaller airport in Flagstaff. The Sedona Airport is for private planes only; no commercial airlines fly in or out of here.

Here are the driving distances and times from nearby destinations:

  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport: 120 miles, 2 hours
  • Flagstaff: 30 miles, 45 minutes
  • Grand Canyon: 115 miles, 2.25 hours
  • Page: 160 miles, 3 hours
  • Monument Valley: 205 miles, 3.5 hours
  • Tucson: 230 miles, 3.5 hours
  • Las Vegas: 280 miles, 4.5 hours

Things to do in Sedona

The view of the Red Rock Scenic Byway from Bell Rock.

Where to Stay

If you are looking for a place to stay, we have two great recommendations.

On our most recent visit we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Sedona. This is located in West Sedona. It is a beautiful property and from our room we had sunset views of Cathedral Rock.

A Sunset Chateau is a smaller boutique style property. We stayed here two years ago and had a wonderful experience.

For many more recommendations on where to stay in Sedona, read our article Where to Stay in Sedona: Best Hotels for Your Budget.

Where Are You Going Next?

If your visit is part of a bigger road trip through Arizona or the American Southwest, here is more information to help you plan your trip.

ROAD TRIP IDEA: 10 Days in the American Southwest: The Ultimate Road Trip Itinerary
ROAD TRIP IDEA: The Ultimate Arizona Road Trip Itinerary
GRAND CANYON: 16 Best Viewpoints on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon
GRAND CANYON: One Day in the Grand Canyon: Best Things to Do
GRAND CANYON: How to Hike the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails in One Day
ANTELOPE CANYON: How to Visit Antelope Canyon
MONUMENT VALLEY: The Complete Guide to Monument Valley for First-Time Visitors
PETRIFIED FOREST: Petrified Forest National Park: Travel Guide & Itinerary
SAGUARO: 8 Amazing Things to Do in Saguaro National Park
LAS VEGAS: 15 Fun Things to Do in Las Vegas with Teenagers


If you have any questions about how to spend one day in Sedona, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information about Sedona

 

Sedona Arizona One Day Itinerary

 

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Comments 4

    1. Post
      Author

      We have nothing in the works right now. This summer we will be visiting Alaska and Hawaii. If we travel internationally, it will be at the end of 2021 or early 2022.

      1. That makes sense. Do you think the world will be more or less open to travel by early 2022? God I hope so. I have a safari planned in Botswana in March. You think that will go ahead without any problems? I’m American and fully vaccinated. Thanks.

        1. Post
          Author

          It’s hard to know what will happen but my hunch is that travel will be approaching normal by early 2022. There will be some countries where it still might not be a good idea, if they are still getting hit hard by COVID and/or struggling to get vaccinated. Which countries those are…it’s too early to tell. We will be planning some international trips in 2022 but will be keeping our eye on what is going on around the world, and how other countries are going regarding vaccinations and infections. A Botswana safari is epic so we will be keeping our fingers crossed for you! Cheers, Julie

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